By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
LEADERSHIP of the National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE has warned state governors not to force the union into declaring industrial action in the country by not utilizing the recent Paris Club refund to offset all backlog of its members salaries.
The National President of NULGE, Ibrahim Khaleel, in an interview, disclosed that the union had already written to all the governors on the immediacy of utilizing the Paris Fund to pay the backlog of salaries to local government workers, threatening that the governors would risk the wrath of workers if they acted to the contrary.
He said, “Well a lot of efforts have been in place even before the release of the Paris Club refunds. We visited most of the devastating states particularly in terms of payments of local government salaries and one of these states is Delta state.
Backlog of unpaid salaries
We had a direct meeting with the National leadership of NULGE and Delta state governor and we signed an MoU with him that as soon as Paris Club fund cones whatever belong to the local government will be judiciously used and transparently with our leadership in the state in offsetting the backlog of unpaid salaries of our members.
“It was through the collective push of the Nigeria Labour Congress with its affiliates that the governors forum adopted a resolution that this Paris Club is going to be used by all the state government to ensure that they off set the unpaid salaries of all the workers in the state. We have already issued letters particularly to the states owing our workers salary that they must do the needful otherwise the union this time around is ready to engage them in whatever level.”
The NULGE National President equally claimed that state government had caused hardships to workers at the local government level, stressing that the disturbing development necessitated the meeting of the union alongside the leadership of Nigeria Union of Teaches had with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara recently.
He said, “We are always everywhere in Nigeria canvassing and trying to enlighten the Nigeria people to understand that the problem of ill performance of local government in Nigeria is not from the local government workers or caused by the political leadership of local government. It is as a result of high level of encroachment into the exclusive preserve of local government by the political elites in Nigeria. This is made possible due to some lacuna in the constitution. We have observed particularly, the creation of State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC, which jeopardized the political independence of local government and allow the councils to be hijacked completely by the governor of a state.
“We witnessed a period whereby even when Section 7 of the Nigeria Constitution guaranteed for a democratic local government system, by a governor of the state may decide at any time to have elected representatives of the local government or not to have elected representatives.”
All manners of experiments have been exercised by the governors of the state at various levels thereby disconnecting people at the grassroots level was governance and democracy thereby making governance in Nigeria as exclusive governance. Where you have an exclusive arrangement, you are bound to have chaotic situation and confusion. Where governance is exclusive, definitely you will have a lot of security challenges, a lot of gaps in social amenities and that is what we are witnessing today.
“We unanimously agreed that primary school teachers by the provision of the constitution is the responsibility of the two levels of government but the state government is more responsible for the payment of teacher salaries by the provision of the constitution and the Supreme Court judgement of April 2002. Based on this understanding, NUT, NULGE and NLC signed an MoU in the presence of the two chambers and we agreed that a clear provision needs to be provided in the new amendment where the state assemblies will be asked by way of constitutional provision to make laws of what percentage or the proportion of the revenue from a local government in a given state be contributed from the level of FAAC for the payment of primary teachers salaries as well as the level of state government contributions in funding primary school teachers.”